There was a time when Meherunnisa Shaukat Ali couldn't wait to be a bride. Then two things happened to change her plans: her father lost a lot of the family's money trading shares, and she grew tired of people making fun of how skinny she was.
So Meherunnisa joined a gym, gained some muscles, and got a job.
Not just any job – she became a female bouncer in Delhi.
Now Meherunnisa's sister Tarannum too works as a bouncer. Tarannum usually accompanies her to provide security at events during the day. Usually, the women escort celebrities and other VIPs to malls, and appear at other public events. They earn approximately Rs 500 a day.
By night, Meherunnissa works at the Hauz Khas café and bar, Social. She is the third of four sisters, and earns Rs 15,000 a month for her job at the Delhi bar.
“I love my job," she said. "What’s better than earning and being independent, especially when you come from such a conservative background?”
Meherunnisa's shift at Social begins at 7 in the evening, and usually continues until one in the morning. It took some time for her father to accept the fact that she would leave for work every evening, and return late at night.
“I remember how angry he was when he first heard," Meherunnissa recalled. "His face was fierce and red. But then, he understood that I am earning for the family and I am not doing anything that is ethically wrong.”
Her father, Shaukat Ali, seated in a corner of the house, turned up the volume of their television set.
Meherunnissa’s mother Shashi Kala Mishra (or Shama Parveen, as she is known after marriage) has always been proud of her daughter. Her sons, she said, abandoned the family once they found work – but not Meherunnissa.
“My daughter is not cheating or stealing," Shama said. "She is doing the job of a man, my sons don’t even visit us now. I am proud of her."
Meherunnisa still has the same loves she had earlier – she likes putting henna on her hands, wearing bangles, serving food to guests who visit their home. More than any of these things though, she loves how confident her work has made her.
“I feel respected and useful today," she said. "I feel proud that I am able to serve my family. If I can have faith and go beyond gender roles, so can anyone else.”
From the boardroom to the battlefield, bad decisions have been a recipe for disaster
On New Year’s Day, 1962, Dick Rowe, the official talent scout for Decca Records, went to office, little realising that this was to become one of the most notorious days in music history. He and producer Mike Smith had to audition bands and decide if any were good enough to be signed on to the record label. At 11:00 am, either Rowe or Smith, history is not sure who, listened a group of 4 boys who had driven for over 10 hours through a snowstorm from Liverpool, play 15 songs. After a long day spent listening to other bands, the Rowe-Smith duo signed on a local group that would be more cost effective. The band they rejected went on to become one of the greatest acts in musical history – The Beatles. However, in 1962, they were allegedly dismissed with the statement “Guitar groups are on the way out”.
Decca’s decision is a classic example of deciding based on biases and poor information. History is full of examples of poor decisions that have had far reaching and often disastrous consequences.
In the world of business, where decisions are usually made after much analysis, bad decisions have wiped out successful giants. Take the example of Kodak – a company that made a devastating wrong decision despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Everyone knows that Kodak couldn’t survive as digital photography replaced film. What is so ironic that Alanis Morissette could have sung about it, is that the digital camera was first invented by an engineer at Kodak as early as 1975. In 1981, an extensive study commissioned by Kodak showed that digital was likely to replace Kodak’s film camera business in about 10 years. Astonishingly, Kodak did not use this time to capitalise on their invention of digital cameras – rather they focused on making their film cameras even better. In 1996, they released a combined camera – the Advantix, which let users preview their shots digitally to decide which ones to print. Quite understandably, no one wanted to spend on printing when they could view, store and share photos digitally. The Advantix failed, but the company’s unwillingness to shift focus to digital technology continued. Kodak went from a 90% market share in US camera sales in 1976 to less than 10% in 2012, when it filed for bankruptcy. It sold off many of its biggest businesses and patents and is now a shell of its former self.
Few military blunders are as monumental as Napoleon’s decision to invade Russia. The military genius had conquered most of modern day Europe. However, Britain remained out of his grasp and so, he imposed a trade blockade against the island nation. But the Russia’s Czar Alexander I refused to comply due to its effect on Russian trade. To teach the Russians a lesson, Napolean assembled his Grand Armée – one of the largest forces to ever march on war. Estimates put it between 450,000 to 680,000 soldiers. Napoleon had been so successful because his army could live off the land i.e. forage and scavenge extensively to survive. This was successful in agriculture-rich and densely populated central Europe. The vast, barren lands of Russia were a different story altogether. The Russian army kept retreating further and further inland burning crops, cities and other resources in their wake to keep these from falling into French hands. A game of cat and mouse ensued with the French losing soldiers to disease, starvation and exhaustion. The first standoff between armies was the bloody Battle of Borodino which resulted in almost 70,000 casualties. Seven days later Napoleon marched into a Moscow that was a mere shell, burned and stripped of any supplies. No Russian delegation came to formally surrender. Faced with no provisions, diminished troops and a Russian force that refused to play by the rules, Napolean began the long retreat, back to France. His miseries hadn’t ended - his troops were attacked by fresh Russian forces and had to deal with the onset of an early winter. According to some, only 22,000 French troops made it back to France after the disastrous campaign.
When it comes to sports, few long time Indian cricket fans can remember the AustralAsia Cup final of 1986 without wincing. The stakes were extremely high – Pakistan had never won a major cricket tournament, the atmosphere at the Sharjah stadium was electric, the India-Pakistan rivalry at its height. Pakistan had one wicket in hand, with four runs required off one ball. And then the unthinkable happened – Chetan Sharma decided to bowl a Yorker. This is an extremely difficult ball to bowl, many of the best bowlers shy away from it especially in high pressure situations. A badly timed Yorker can morph into a full toss ball that can be easily played by the batsman. For Sharma who was then just 18 years old, this was an ambitious plan that went wrong. The ball emerged as a low full toss which Miandad smashed for a six, taking Pakistan to victory. Almost 30 years later, this ball is still the first thing Chetan Sharma is asked about when anyone meets him.
So, what leads to bad decisions? While these examples show the role of personal biases, inertia, imperfect information and overconfidence, bad advice can also lead to bad decisions. One of the worst things you can do when making an important decision is to make it on instinct or merely on someone’s suggestion, without arming yourself with the right information. That’s why Aegon Life puts the power in your hands, so you have all you need when choosing something as important as life insurance. The Aegon Life portal has enough information to help someone unfamiliar with insurance become an expert. So empower yourself with information today and avoid decisions based on bad advice. For more information on the iDecide campaign, see here.
This article was produced on behalf of Aegon Life by the Scroll.in marketing team and not by the Scroll.in editorial staff.